Wind surpasses hydro generation in Australia

Wind power has become Australia’s primary source of renewable energy after it produced more electricity in 2019 than hydro capacity for the first time.

Infigen Energy's 113MW Bodangora wind farm in New South Wales was completed in 2019

Renewable energy projects produced 24% of Australia's total electricity generation, up from 21.3% in 2018, according to the latest annual report from the Clean Energy Council.

Wind's new position as the leading renewable source is due in part to ongoing drought conditions in eastern Australia resulting in falling hydro production.

However, wind and solar capacity has also grown rapidly. The wind sector added 837MW of new capacity across eight projects last year.

Meanwhile, large-scale solar added more than 1.4GW, while rooftop solar added 2.2GW. A total of 4.4GW of new renewable energy capacity was added across the year.

This all means that wind power generated 19.5TWh in 2019, compared with 14.2TWh from hydro and 5.1TWh from large-scale solar sources. Wind power projects, therefore, produced over 35% of Australia's renewable electricity.

In 2018, wind power produced 16.17TWh of electricity, slightly less than hydro.

However, despite the strong year, the Clean Energy Council warned that momentum could slow following a sudden drop in investments.

"After more than a decade of unstoppable growth, 2019 saw a 50% downturn in new large-scale renewable energy investment commitments – with grid congestion, erratic transmission loss factors, and system strength issues creating barriers for project developers and impacting investor confidence," said CEC chief Kane Thornton.

Financial commitments for renewable energy fell from A$10.7 billion (US$6.6 billion) in 2018 to A$4.5 billion (US$2.8 billion) last year.

"There is still a strong pipeline of renewable energy and storage projects, and enormous customer demand for rooftop solar and batteries. These will be critical in replacing ageing coal-fired power stations, meeting Australia's climate change targets and ensuring affordable and reliable power supply," Thornton added.